Josephine Gillespie

Oct 28, 2021

Wonders of the Mekong

Rethinking Sustainable Development and Resilience in Cambodia’s Tonle Sap Lake

SSEAC Stories 2021

Cambodia’s Tonle Sap is the largest inland lake in Southeast Asia. Each year, during the monsoon, this freshwater lake experiences an incredible hydrological phenomenon, in which it is inundated with swelling waters from the Mekong River, causing it to rise by up to tenfold in some places, before returning to its pre-monsoon level as the dry season returns. But Tonle Sap is facing a triple environmental threat: climate change, the damming of the Mekong River, and over-fishing, with devastating impact not only on the wildlife, but also on local floating village communities.

To share more, Dr Josephine Gillespie joins Dr Natali Pearson on SSEAC Stories and invites us to rethink global environmental protection regimes in Southeast Asia. Taking Cambodia’s Tonle Sap Lake as a case-study, she argues that in order to maintain the ecological, cultural, and economic integrity of the most important river and delta system in the world, environmental management projects and policies must take into account people-place dynamics and local livelihoods.

About Josephine Gillespie:

Dr Josephine Gillespie is a Senior Lecturer in the School of Geosciences, Faculty of Science at the University of Sydney. She researches environmental regulation and people-place dynamics across the region, with a particular focus on Cambodia. Jo’s research projects have focused on protected areas, especially the management of world heritage places and wetlands. She is the author of Protected Areas: A Legal Geography Approach (2020) and a co-editor of Legal Geography: Perspectives and Methods (2020). Jo has published widely about environmental management in the Asia-Pacific.

For more information or to browse additional resources, visit the Sydney Southeast Asia Centre’s website:

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Natali Pearson

Dr Natali Pearson is Curriculum Coordinator at the Sydney Southeast Asia Centre, a university-wide multidisciplinary center at the University of Sydney, Australia. Her research focuses on the protection, management and interpretation of underwater cultural heritage in Southeast Asia.
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